Document 17: Lin Farley, "Response to Sexual Shakedown Review," Aegis (January/February 1979): 24-26.


   In response to Klein's criticism (see Document 16), Farley argued that capitalism had in fact threatened male control of women by creating a free labor market in which women competed with men. In response, male trade unions gained control of the majority of occupations by systematically denying women training and isolating them into a few occupations. Men then used sexual harassment to maintain job segregation. According to Farley, this "periodic push-pull between capitalism and the Patriarchy" had frequently happened and was happening in 1978. Therefore, she viewed patriarchy as the root of sexual harassment.

p. 24

Alliance Against Sexual Coercion


by Lin Farley

   Freada Klein's review of my book Sexual Shakedown: The Sexual Harassment of Women On The Job was somewhat misleading. While the review was excellent in many respects Klein's own economic views and those of the Alliance Against Sexual Coercion were clearly challenged by the book's emphasis on Patriarchal relations rather than capitalism. Consequently, at times, the reader gets only Klein's rebuttal of the book's analysis rather than an accurate summation of its thought and documentation. To set the record straight then, Sexual Shakedown includes a feminist analysis as follows:

  1. Male control of female labor is critical to the survival of the Patriarchy -- simply put, economic independence for women would be a terrible blow, perhaps mortal.

  2. Men historically have controlled female labor through the family, but capitalism threatened this control when it crated a ‘free market’ in labor. This market initially preferred the labor of women and children as it was believed they were more suited to handling machines.

  3. This caused the Patriarchy a terrible crisis. Engels himself as I report in Sexual Shakedown was in turmoil over the fact that women were earning more than their husbands, were refusing housework, etc.

  4. Men soon moved to meet the crisis by waging a campaign of forcing women out of the workforce. They never completely succeeded in either England or America but through their trade unions they did succeed in gaining control of the majority of occupations systematically denying women training and access and isolating women in a job ghetto.

  5. It is this female job ghetto and the institution of job segregation by sex which keeps women at work (female labor) properly controlled as it creacted an oversupply of female workers for the limited number of so-called female jobs. Hence, women's low wages.

  6. From the beginning of this male strategy sexual harassment has been practiced towards working women, and it has played a vital role in enforcing this strategy. Perhaps most importantly it maintains job segregation by sex. Very simply women who attempt to leave the ghetto and break into non-traditional job areas are sexually harassed back out Hence when Klein asserts that Sexual Shakedown identifies sexual harassment as the cause of job segregation she is inaccurate, rather the book correctly identifies that sexual harassment helps to maintain this fundamental cause of female oppression in the workplace. Of course, in the present period of federally mandated affirmative action we must eradicate sexual harassment or our progress is doomed.

  7. This brings us to the effect of sexual harassment in the workplace at the present time. Male sexual harassment of working women is phenomenally high, the majority female response to the behavior is to quit, a smaller number resist and are fired while a similar small number, usually those

    p. 25

    with fewer job options, submit. In understanding the significance of this the following equation may be helpful. High rate of sexual harassment = high female quits and job loss = devastating emotional/- economic impact on women workers, their attitudes towards work and their overall job market behavior.

       Hence, in analyzing women's higher unemployment compared to that of men, their higher job turnover and lower seniority rates, the impact of sexual harassment stands to be significant. This is quite different than Klein's assertion that Sexual Shakedown claims sexual harassment is the only source of women's job turnover and that this ignores women's demands for caring for children, etc. Moreover, Klein failed to report that the book repeatedly lists all the non-market factors that are regularly given for these aspects of female employment suggesting only that to incessantly turn to non-market roles for answers may be missing the point that sexual harassment is playing an important part within work itself.

  8. Finally Klein dismisses sexual harassment as originating with Patriarchal relations rather than capitalism per se, but she provides no evidence while she dismisses the substantial documentation on the other side. Suffice it to say that given man's need to control female labor, the overwhelming factual evidence of the role male workers have played in hamstringing female competition and their continuing absolute refusal to work alongside women as equals which is frequently expressed through sexual harassment, the scale is tipping towards Patriarchal relations.

   Of course, men functioning as employers have not objected, but the idea that capitalism itself somehow came up with the idea of sexual harassment is absurd. Moreover, the periodic push-pull between capitalism and the Patriarchy when capitalism overode patriarchal interests in securing female workers -- which has frequently happened and is occurring right now -- is only further evidence of the role of the Patriarchy. As Juliet Mitchell writes in Woman's Estate, "Technology is mediated by the total structure … It is the relationship between the social forces and technology which will determine woman's future in work relations."

   To conclude, the analysis outlined here is just the bare bones of an argument that is not only more elaborated but well-documented in the pages of the book. In essence it is a glimpse of the way the Patriarchy has transformed capitalism. This economic system is exploitive, but for the present it is the fact that if it hadn't been for Patriarchal programming women may have well been on the top and men on the bottom that is significant. The argument is new which is why the book has been hailed as ground-breaking. Still, it is important to note that the analysis is barely one-quarter of Sexual Shakedown and that it merely provides the frame for better understanding the widespread coercion that is sexual harassment.

   Sexual Shakedown also includes a wide variety of women's experiences, the patterns to the abuse in different fields of employment, the effect this coercion is having on who works where as when minority women cannot get hired for the better-paying, front-office jobs because of the white male sex standard applied at hiring, the rampant extent of the abuse in young teenage employment and the social coercion that is exposed in the chapters on the Casting Couch and the Washington Sex Scandals.

   Ending sexual harassment is a critical necessity if women are to ever advance on the job or throughout work; it was my intention that Sexual Shakedown would advance this effort and the dialogue begun here is important to that end. Understanding the causes of our oppression can shape solutions that will be truly effective.

p. 26

   For myself I am convinced that female solidarity and organizing throughout work into unions that will protect our rights on the job as vigorously as men have organized to protect theirs is the ultimate answer. This issue is a catalyst, a unifyer; for women who work it is as profoundly important as rape and consequently it is the issue that will finally push us to organize on-the-job. In the meantime every possible solution available at the present time -- from criminal prosecution to civil remedies -- is included in Sexual Shakedown. Reviews are important but they can never replace evaluating something for ourselves. Read Sexual Shakedown and decide what you think -- the dialogue is important.

Lin Farley
24 Bond Street
New York, NY 10012


back to top